Thursday, 31 March 2005
Elections in Zimbabwe
Topic: In the News
So, Zimbabweans are going to the polls today to vote. My dictionary defines 'vote' as "a formal expression of will, wish or choice in some matter". What wish? What choice? None, it seems, under Robert Mugabe. Voters have been intimidated and threatened with violence, and even denied food supplies unless they vote for his Zanu-PF Party. Now, it seems that even a candidate for the MDC
, the main opposition party, (the Movement for Democratic Change), has been attacked and has 'disappeared'. Will he resurface or is his fate to be 'eaten by a lion'?
This will not be a democratic election, nor will it be a legitimate election. The rumours are that the voters' roll lists up to 1 million dead people, more than 300,000 duplicate names and 1 million people who no longer live at their registered addresses. Everyone agrees that there is intimidation and violence. Everyone knows that there is cheating and rigging. The West "condemns
" this election but will anyone do anything about it? Will anyone help the people of Zimbabwe to escape the mad cruel tyranny which is slowly choking the life out of their land? I doubt it.
Wednesday, 30 March 2005
Vincent van Gogh
Do you use Google
(UK version) to search for information on the Internet? It is my favourite Search Engine and I set it as my home page a long time ago. They are very good at 'decorating' the letters of Google at special times of the year - like the Mars rover image which appeared in January 2004.
Nevertheless, I was surprised to find this image this morning. When I hovered my cursor over the picture, up popped 'Vincent Van Gogh'. It didn't take long to discover that the famous Dutch artist was born on this day, 30th March 1853, at Groot-Zundert. He was the son of the village vicar, Theodorus van Gogh, and his wife, Anne Cornelia Carbentus. A still-born child had been born exactly one year earlier and their new son received his name, Vincent Willen van Gogh.
Strangely enough, 30th March is also the date that a painting by Van Gogh, "Still Life: Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers", was sold at Christie's
in 1987 for the small sum of #24.75 million (some $39,921,750!). This painting now hangs in the Seiji Togo Memorial Yasuda Kasai Museum in Tokyo. It has been the subject of much controversy (is it a fake?). Vincent van Gogh loved sunflowers
and painted a lot of them in different arrangements - some ten or eleven different paintings! Sometimes, he even copied some of his original paintings as presents for friends. He did one of his Sunflowers as a gift for Paul Gauguin, another famous artist.Van Gogh
is famous for cutting off his ear. He suffered from manic depression and schizophrenia and possibly epilepsy. He finally shot himself and died two days later on 29th July 1890. I find it very sad that the penniless Vincent van Gogh often had to give away some of his paintings in exchange for food or a new canvas - paintings which now sell for millions. Apparently, he only sold one painting in his lifetime. It is a strange world.
Airey Neave DSO OBE MC MP (1916-1976)
I can remember hearing the news on the 30th March 1976 and feeling so shocked that a Member of Parliament had been killed by a car bomb as he was driving out of the House of Commons car park. At the time, I only knew that Airey Neave was the Conservative Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary and the Member of Parliament for Abingdon. Apparently, he had been assassinated by the Irish National Liberation Party, probably because of his policy on Northern Ireland and the IRA. He was also a close adviser of Margaret Thatcher, the then Conservative Party leader.
His murderers have never been brought to justice and there are rumours that a 'sympathiser', even an 'insider' had helped the INLP. [See The Day I met Airey Neave's Killers
an article by Paul Routledge of the Mail on Sunday, originally published in 2002.]
Airey Neave was a distinguished Barrister as well as a politician. But did you know that he was also a War Hero? At the start of the Second World War, he joined the Army as a Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery and was sent to France. Wounded at Calais in May 1940, he was captured by the Germans and sent to a prisoner of war camp, Oflag IX near Spangenberg. In February 1941, he was moved to Stalag XXA Thorn in Poland. Shortly afterward, he escaped with Flight Lieut. Norman Forbes RAF, but they were both soon recaptured and were sent to the maximum security prison at Colditz Castle
In January 1942, Airey Neave became the first British Officer to escape from Colditz (his second attempt). He escaped with a Dutch officer and they reached Switzerland having travelled on foot and by train through Leipzig, Ulm and Singen. He then evaded through France, Spain and Gibraltar using the escape and evasion route which later became known as the Pat O'Leary Line
. On his return to England, Airey Neave helped to train aircrews in the means of escape in occupied territory. He was also recruited as an intelligence agent for MI9
, a branch of MI6 responsible for the support of the French Resistance. As a result of his war service, the French awarded him the Croix de Guerre.
In 1946, Airey Neave was also a member of the Nuremberg war crimes team. He wrote several books about his war experiences.
Monday, 28 March 2005
Many Happy Returns
Topic: Family Days Out
We have had a lovely Easter weekend! It was my husband's birthday on Easter Saturday and we were all invited up to my son's for the day to celebrate. The morning was sunny and warm and we had a very good drive up to London. Andrew was asleep when we arrived but soon woke up from his nap. He is growing fast and really tucks into and enjoys his food! I don't think his parents will have any faddy eating problems with him! We gave him a noisy farm animal book and some Lego Duplo for Easter plus a little outfit which was a little too big! No chocolate, of course. Andrew's mum, Shelley, thinks it can cause hyper-activity so she had prepared an 'egg case' full of fruit for Andrew for his Easter Sunday treat.
After lunch, we went down the road and up the hill to the Horniman Museum
Park. It was a delightful little park with a small farm animal corner and beautiful flower borders. You can see how warm it was - my son in his tee-shirt.
Hubby was spoilt! Lots of presents, including a double DVD with four films on it (yes, four!) to play on his portable DVD player. And two very scrumptious looking special bars of chocolate from Stephanie and Elliot.
Friday, 25 March 2005
Have a Goog God Friday!
Received an email from my son in which he wished me a 'Goog God Friday'! I think it was a typo but it made me laugh anyway.
Do you use a spell checker when you write emails? It is an extrememly helpful little tool but, if you are a really bad speller and can't tell the difference between words like 'write' and 'rite', it is probably of little use! Take this silly example found on the Internet:
Eye halve a spelling checker
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marks four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.
Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.
As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
It's rare lea ever wrong.
Eye Have run this poem threw it
I am shore your pleased two no
Its letter perfect awl the weigh
My checker tolled me sew.
You Can Count Me Out!
Funny what you stumble on weaving your way around the Internet. I was reading a news item and clicked on a 'Google Ad'....
So, you can still send an old-fashioned telegram
and order it online. For the princely price of #3.50, you can even send the Royal couple your own special Congratulations Telegram! This will be delivered to Buckingham Palace in London, within 1 hour (during office hours, of course) of you placing your order....
Wonder how many they will receive?
Thursday, 24 March 2005
British Ceremonies and Pageantry
Now Playing: God Save The Queen
Every Maundy Thursday, the British Sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II, distributes Maundy Money at the Ceremony of the Royal Maundy
. This ancient custom dates back to the 13th century when the Sovereign gave gifts of food and clothing to the poor. As an act of humility, the Monarch would even wash the feet pf the recipients - as Christ washed the feet of his disciples before the Last Supper - although the last King to actually do this was James II
, who died in 1701. Maundy Money
consists of sets of small silver coins which are specially minted for the occasion. The Queen presents them to local deserving pensioners who are chosen because of their outstanding services to their church and community. During her reign, the ceremony has taken place each year in a different cathedral or abbey around the country. In 1986, it took place at Chichester Cathedral
and I seem to remember that we were all let out of our offices to line the route and wave to the Queen!
At the ceremony, each person receives two purses from the Queen, one red and one white. The white purse contains one silver Maundy coin for each year of the monarch's reign. The red purse contains ordinary money in place of the other gifts which used to be given to the poor. The silver Maundy coins originally consisted of a penny and a groat (4 pence). In 1551, a threepence was added and in 1667, a twopence.
It was Henry IV
(ruled 1399-1413) who instigated the practice of relating the number of people receiving maundy money to the sovereign's age and sex. This custom was revised under Queen Elizabeth II and now equal numbers of sets are presented to both male and female recipients. As the Queen is 79 this year, this means that 79 men and 79 women will be presented with Maundy sets at today's ceremony in Wakefield Cathedral
. [For a chuckle, also view this news item
Victorian maundy money is fairly common as the general public could order sets from a bank. This changed, from 1908, when King Edward VII
instructed that only recipients involved in the ceremony were entitled to receive the sets. So after this date, Maundy coin sets became one of the most collectible and sought after numismatic items.
Tuesday, 22 March 2005
Topic: In the News
It was on the BBC News at Ten last night, it was on the Radio Two News this morning, there is an article in today's Times Online
and probably lots of other newspapers are running the story as well. What is it about? Well, apparently we have had such a dry winter in the South of England that the Environment Agency is predicting a water shortage and warning householders of impending hosepipe and sprinkler bans. "Save water", we are told - don't buy plants!
So, what did it do last night? It poured and poured and poured with rain - all night and well into the morning. So heavy was the rain that there was a constant thundering waterfall from next door's faulty guttering at the back of their house. Good job we sleep at the front of our house.
Apparently, the average rainfall for the last four months is down by about 140mm, which means that a lot of reservoirs are down to 57% full instead of 85-90%. Well, they told us that last year and we still got the normal amount of average rain - it just came later than usual! April Showers will probably turn into April Floods - we will wait and see.
Monday, 21 March 2005
Topic: Health Issues
This week, 21st to 27th March 2005, is Prostate Cancer Awareness Week
in the United Kingdom. Prostate cancer is the most common male cancer in this country. However, many men do not know where their prostate gland is or what it does. For those who don't, the gland is located at the base of the bladder surrounding the urethra and it produces some of the fluid that makes up semen. The risk of developing prostate cancer increases with age and increases further if your father, uncle or brother has the disease. Nearly 10,000 men die from this disease every year so, if you experience any problems with urinating or find blood in your urine (like my husband did), you should see your doctor immediately.
It is a fact that ALL men, if they live long enough, will get prostate cancer. Many do not know they have it and many never have any serious symptoms. So, if you are in your eighties or nineties, the odds are that it will not kill you. However, if you get problems in your forties or fifties, DON'T IGNORE IT, it will not go away.
My husband first found blood in his urine in November 2003. The doctor found his prostate to be slightly enlarged (normal for his age) and sent him for a routine blood test to measure his PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen). This measured 13, so the next stage was x-rays, ultra-sound and a cystoscopy at the end of February 2004 (which showed some small kidney stones) and also a CT scan in March to investigate a possible lump on the liver, which turned out to be fat! The cystoscopy (when they pass a little tube with a light through the urethra) is a little unpleasant! Apart from feeling embarrassed, it is a bit uncomfortable and burns when you have to go to the loo for a few hours afterwards. However, my husband said that he could see the inside of his bladder on the monitor, which was very interesting! And it confirmed that his bladder was healthy. The next stage was a biopsy (more discomfort) of the prostate gland and that confirmed that he did have prostate cancer.
Last September, his PSA count had risen one to 14, last month it was 17. If it stays around this level, he will continue with his "watchful waiting". As he is in his seventies, the consultants in this country do not recommend having a prostatectomy (removal of the protate). His options are conformal radiotherapy or wait and see. Unfortunately, radiotherapy can have some potentially very unpleasant side effects. So he chose not to have it done, unless it becomes absolutely necessary, especially as he is not experiencing any real problems at the moment. He gets up two or three times a night, has to go to the loo twice within ten minutes as a precaution if we are going out - nothing he can't live with. In the meantime, medical research is advancing, hopefully, at a much faster rate than his cancer.
A Voice Spake Out Of The Skies
Topic: Poetry and Poets
A brief verse for World Poetry Day
and, I suspect, a little known work by one of England's greatest poets, Alfred Lord Tennyson
A Voice Spake Out Of The Skies
A Voice spake out of the skies
To a just man and a wise?
'The world and all within it
Will only last a minute!'
And a beggar began to cry
'Food, food or I die'!
Is it worth his while to eat,
Or mine to give him meat,
If the world and all within it
Were nothing the next minute?
from Ballads And Other Poems by Alfred Lord Tennyson Poet Laureate.
London: Macmillan And Co., Limited New York: The Macmillan Company 1906
Food for thought?
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